The existence of James Bond 007: Blood Stone doesn't really make sense. It seems to be an apology to Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC gamers for the wonderful GoldenEye remake that's not coming to their consoles.
Even the developer choice seems to be a bit off. Bizarre Creations is a fantastic racing game developer, and while driving is one element of the James Bond formula, it's not the primary one. Shooting is the most prevalent aspect of the Bond franchise, and Bizarre's only shooter title thus far has been the woefully mediocre The Club. Taking the developer into account, Blood Stone ends up exactly what you'd expect: a mediocre shooter with some fantastic driving sequences.
Reprising their roles from the films are Bond, M and the lesser-known Tanner. Initially, you'd think this is a great thing, but the characters have been written ... well, wrong. From the get-go, characters look, act and sound wrong. Daniel Craig is the worst offender of the bunch, delivering his lines as if he were told to use his "inside voice." Some of his lines are even made in the wrong context. Judi Dench's model for M looks a tad monstrous, and the banter between the two is unusually friendly, with M delivering a line in the opening cut scene — "I'll put my faith in Bond" — that conveys how the writing team is out of touch with the modern Bond flick formula.
If you can look past that, Blood Stone thrusts Bond into a bioweapon manufacturing plot with three distinct villains who are linked by the thinnest of connections. The plot never really wraps up, and the ending twist is held together (quite literally) by the edge of a knife. The connections and jumps in logic make very little sense, and you slowly get the impression that the development team wasn't given enough time to develop a coherent, worthwhile story. Even worse is the feeling that the developers did create those story elements but were forced to remove entire levels because they were incomplete as the release deadline loomed. In particular, one level aboard a hovercraft feels like there's a very large section of missing gameplay that is filled in with a cut scene, but it doesn't really work, and the narrative jump is incredibly jarring.
Blood Stone is split into two different types of gameplay. The one that comprises the majority of the incredibly short campaign is the gunplay. Bizarre has learned since its last third-person shooter, and Blood Stone plays decently. The cover system largely works as intended, and nothing feels inherently wrong about the shooting. It's just that nothing about it feels fresh. The shooting segment is content to deliver a variety of sets, locales and shooting scenarios that don't really stand out. There are a few levels that seem somewhat inspired — such as Bond chasing someone along the rooftops of Bangkok — when compared to the rest of the game, which tries to hide its mediocrity by constantly blowing up something.
There's nothing wrong about the execution of the shooting portion, but if you've played any of the games from which it borrows gameplay mechanics, the gunplay leaves a lot to be desired. The cover mechanics are adequate but work much better in games like Gears of War. The shooting is fun enough, but the main shooting "innovation" is essentially copied from the "mark and execute" technique in Splinter Cell: Conviction. To help out with the shooting, Bond has a smart phone gadget that shows you where to go (sometimes this feature fails spectacularly), points out where enemies are and what kind of weapons they are carrying. The gadget is even used for the simplest of puzzles because you need the phone out to solve the puzzle, and the phone tells you exactly what to do.
As the game wears on, the third-person shooter sections devolve into a long, boring exercise in filler content between the excellent driving stages. The driving portions only comprise about 20 percent of the gameplay, but they're the only memorable part of the game. Bond movies have always had at least one over-the-top and spectacular car chase sequence, and that's exactly how the car portions of Blood Stone play out.
In particular, there's an amazing sequence that has you chasing down a two-story-tall garbage truck that's taking out everything in its path and leaving you to simultaneously dodge the mess and keep up. The chase is absolutely amazing, looks spectacular, and shows Bizarre's skill with all car-related things — as long as you don't die a cheap death during the driving sequences. Once that occurs, it becomes apparent that the chase sequences are heavily scripted, and veering more than 10 feet from the preferred path destroys the intensity and usually results in a very cheap death. It's hard to say if the driving is really driving or merely an extremely interactive cut scene.
Graphically, Blood Stone is all over the place. The driving sequences look and feel significantly better than the shooting segments. During the driving sequences, people would stare with their mouths slightly agape, but during the shooting portions, the same people would point out that Craig's hair is the wrong color. The levels and enemies fall flat because they feel woefully unpolished, from the occasionally awkward animations to the slightly subpar attention to general details.
Thankfully, the sound picks up a lot of that slack. While Craig didn't give a great performance as Bond in this title, he's surrounded by a group of pretty solid voice actors, and a spectacular soundtrack does a pitch-perfect job of emulating the Bond films. If there were an option, I would definitely purchase the game's soundtrack. It was that good.
If you still haven't put away the game after completing the five-hour campaign, there is a online multiplayer component that pits spies versus mercenaries in a couple of uninspired game modes with uninspired execution and a very small online community. The multiplayer is largely a throwaway and won't distract you for more than an hour or two before you put Call of Duty: Black Ops or Halo: Reach back in your console for a multiplayer fix.
James Bond 007: Blood Stone isn't really a bad game. It's just a five-hour, heavily scripted game that's far too easy and short on genuine thrills. The most exciting parts are nothing more than overly scripted chases, and the rest is overshadowed by all the games from which it borrows gameplay mechanics. Blood Stone is serviceable and fun for an hour or two, but when you only have a five-hour game that runs out of steam by the end of the second hour and all of your "innovations" have been better implemented in other games, it's hard to continue caring. With Activision opting to close or sell Bizarre a week after this game was released, it's clear that even the publisher wasn't too happy with the end product. Bond is back, but this isn't the Bond game that you should be checking out.
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